Two NETL Research Associates recently earned their Ph.Ds. as part of the Lab’s Science Education Research Programs, which are offered through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. Jarret Riley and William “Trey” Benincosa successfully defended doctoral theses that consisted of research performed entirely during their time at NETL, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Combustion Program.
“Defending a thesis is like the reveal of a sculpture,” said Riley. “You as the researcher and student have turned an arbitrary idea into a materialized, refined and polished product.”
Riley earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from WVU, and before becoming part of the ORISE program, he was contracted through AECOM and supported through a fellowship from WVU. His research at the Lab involves advancing a potentially game-changing approach for capturing carbon dioxide during fossil fuel combustion called chemical looping combustion (CLC).
“I was fortunate to be able to conduct my graduate research here at NETL,” Riley said. “The state-of-the-art facilities and expert scientists expanded the scope of my dissertation research and provide me with a wealth of opportunities to learn new skills.”
Riley collaborated with mentor Ranjani Siriwardane, Ph.D. throughout his time at the Lab, and he expressed great appreciation for her expertise. “Researching at NETL and being part of a project that spans many disciplines allowed me to experience the bigger picture aspect of my contribution to the research effort.”
Riley plans to continue on as a postdoctoral researcher at NETL through ORISE’s Postgraduate Research Program, continuing his CLC research.
Benincosa also received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from WVU. “I felt very prepared going into my final defense,” he said. “I was fortunate to use many advanced characterization instruments at NETL to collect data, which helped me tell a cohesive story.”
Benincosa’s research also focuses on advancing CLC technology with Siriwardane. “I am surrounded by expert scientists, especially my mentor Dr. Siriwardane, every time I step foot in the lab,” he said. “These NETL scientists were always willing to lend a hand in demonstrating an instrument or thinking through an experiment.”
Benincosa isn’t sure where his path will lead next, but the experience that both he and Riley gained from their time at a state-of-the-art national laboratory like NETL has prepared them to join the next generation of energy researchers, leading the nation into the next generation of scientific advancement.